Drought-stricken areas of Central America and Mexico were victimized in 1998 by forest and brush fires that burned out of control during much of the first half of the year. Wind currents at various times during the episode helped transport smoke from these fires over the Gulf of Mexico and into portions of the United States. Visibilities were greatly reduced during favorable flow periods from New Mexico to south Florida and northward to Wisconsin as a result of this smoke and haze. In response to the reduced visibilities and increased pollutants, public health advisories and information statements were issued by various agencies in Gulf Coast states and in Oklahoma.

This event was also detected by a unique array of instrumentation deployed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program Southern Great Plains Cloud and Radiation Testbed and by sensors of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality/Air Quality Division. Observations from these measurement devices suggest elevated levels of aerosol loading and ozone concentrations during May 1998 when prevailing winds were favorable for the transport of the Central American smoke pall into Oklahoma and Kansas. In particular, aerosol extinction profiles derived from the ARM Raman lidar measurements revealed large variations in the vertical distribution of the smoke.

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Footnotes

aCooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.

bPacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington.

cScience Systems and Applications, Inc., Lanham, Maryland.

dOak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

eNASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia.

fBrookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York.

gScience Applications International Corp./NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia.

hOak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

iNOAA Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado.

jUniversity of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota.

kNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

lUniversity of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

mCooperative Institute for Regional Prediction, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.